The My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet

If you have a chronic condition, the chances that you take an antidepressant are pretty high. The chances that that antidepressant is an SSRI are event higher. And the chances that you’ve gained weight due to taking that SSRI are 1 in 4. That’s a 25% chance you’ve gained weight due to medication.

I am in no way a medical professional. I’m just a gal who takes Lexapro. Recently, when my dose was doubled from 10 mg to 20 mg, I gained 15 pounds in a matter of 3 weeks. I started taking Lexapro in the spring of 2014, and from that time until now I have gained a total of 35 pounds.

Let me say that I have never been thin, and I will never be thin, and I’m not concerned with being thin. I am concerned with being healthy though. The weight gain not only affects my body image and self esteem, but is hard on my joints and my heart. My chronic pain condition already makes me bedridden much of the time, so the steady increase in my weight and my seemingly insatiable appetite is disheartening and worrisome.

I monitore my weight and my caloric intake. I use MyFitnessPal to track the foods I eat, my measurements, and my weight. I am conscious of when I am making good food choices and bad food choices. All my body wants is sweet carbohydrates… all of the time. That’s what I crave. Night hunger is a huge problem. No matter how sensibly I eat, there is no satiation whatsoever. I’ve tried adding more fiber to my diet to feel fuller. I drink water constantly. I eat protein to provide long-term energy. Nothing works.

According to my research, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Now I’m going to try something new, and I wanted to share my experiment with you because that’s the entire point of this blog.

The Logic Behind the My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet

Serotonin makes you feel better, calmer, etc. The amino acid that is generated before serotonin is produced and absorbed in the brain is tryptophan. Starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods help your body produce serotonin. Protein-rich foods confuse the body and interrupt serotonin production because they cause other amino acids to compete with the easily absorbed tryptophan. This process is detailed in a book by Nina Frusztajer, MD &  Judith J. Wurtman, PhD called The Serotonin Power Diet: Eat Carbs–Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant–to Stop Emotional Overeating and Halt Antidepressant-Associated Weight Gain.

It’s All About Timing

This isn’t to say that you should eat all carbs all the time to lose weight while taking SSRIs. Not at all. The point here is to carefully plan meals and snacks so that you are giving your body the chance to make the most of what you’re eating. The knowledge that my body actually does need these starchy carbs to help end this constant feeling of hunger together is the first piece of the puzzle. Next, I need to understand when my body needs these foods.

Serotonin levels are typically lower in the afternoon and evening, when there is less light and our activity levels tend to decrease. That and the fact that I’m female (meaning that my serotonin levels are lower anyway- yay biology!) means that I need a serotonin boost later in the day. It makes sense to structure my daily diet in such a way that it provides me with the proper nutritional breakdown, but pushes my carb intake toward the end of the day.

Another interesting fact about carbohydrates and serotonin- fructose, the sugar found in fruit, doesn’t help to produce serotonin. Nope, not one bit. So eating my fruits and veggies as snacks to prevent those cravings for sweets isn’t going to curb my appetite.

The Diet In Brief

  • Starchy carbs are okay, and timed strategically to be eaten in the later part of the day as snacks or meals
  • Protein, fats, and vegetables should be eaten separately from carbs (and earlier in the day) to achieve the most serotonin-production bang for my carb buck
  • Fruits should absolutely be consumed, but won’t be a good substitute for real carbs because fructose doesn’t produce serotonin
  • Continuing to count calories and keep track of my weight and check in with my doctor is still important!


The My Brain Hates Me SSRI Diet Plan

Now that I’ve discussed the reasoning and basic ideas behind the diet, let’s get to the good stuff: what I plan to eat and when! This plan is based on a vegetarian diet with my daily caloric restriction of approximately 1300 calories, which I calculated here. Feel free to substitute any of the foods on this list with your own equivalents! If you’d like to adapt my personal plan to your own caloric requirements, there’s a calculator here. These are just ideas that I have to use as a guideline. For example, I might have a hard boiled egg one day, and veggie bacon the next.

As you’ll see, my plan is pretty flexible. I’ve outlined a plan for myself as a guideline, but it is by no means a strict set of rules.

Suggested Breakfast Foods

Any of the following in any combination (200-325 calories)

  • hard boiled egg
  • veggie bacon
  • fruit
  • spinach omelette
  • cereal with almond milk

Suggested Lunch Foods

Any of the following (200-400 calories)

  • Mattar Paneer with rice
  • Palak Paneer with rice
  • Mattar Tofu with rice
  • Greek yogurt
  • pear or apple
  • banana
  • cheese slice

Suggested Afternoon Snack Foods

Any of the following in any combination (100-150 calories)

  • low-sodium, whole wheat crackers
  • pretzels
  • rice cakes or rice crackers
  • plain instant oatmeal or cream of wheat


Dinner is always tricky because it’s the one meal in my home where I’m not just feeding myself. I have two non-vegetarian men to contend with. So long as dinner stays between 400 and 600 calories (depending upon how the rest of my day has gone) it can be anything from tacos to salad to pasta to burgers. I serve well-balanced meals with a vegetarian alternative for myself. The menfolk eat meat. I frequently use Martha Stewart’s website as a jumping off point for meal ideas.

Suggested Evening Snack Foods

Any of the following in any combination (100-150 calories)

  • low-sodium, whole wheat crackers
  • pretzels
  • rice cakes or rice crackers
  • plain instant oatmeal or cream of wheat

I’m beginning this diet this weekend, and I will follow it for a month and track my weight throughout. I’ll post an update about my progress in a week. My fingers and toes are crossed that this is finally the dietary formula to combat the constant weight gain.

Wish me luck!

If you try this diet along with me, let me know how it goes! Comment here, or talk to me on Facebook or Twitter!

Image courtesy of Paul at


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